Throughout history, society has placed a different value on physical education and sport. The purpose of physical education has changed over different time periods and as a result of ever-changing socio-cultural events. Some civilizations use the practice of physical education to prepare for war, some for profit, and some for a general all-around development. Three ancient cultures are of particular importance to development of physical education. The Athenian Greeks, the Spartan Greeks, and the Romans each had their own beliefs about the mind, body, and spirit. While these early civilizations valued physical development to varying degrees, they are all worthy of examination within a sport and physical education context.
In ancient Athens, the all-around citizen was valued. To the Athenians, physical education was necessary to achieve all-around mental, moral, and physical excellence. The Greek gods personified this idea, known as arête. The 12 main gods of the Olympic Council possessed superior intellectual and physical capabilities, such as strength, endurance, agility, and bravery. They personified the Greek Ideal, which emphasized the unity of the "man of action" with the "man of wisdom" (Lumpkin, 1990, p.167). "The Greek Ideal became the Athenian Ideal as this city-state sought to provide an educational system that encouraged boys to develop their physical and mental abilities" (Lumpkin, 1990, p.168). Boys improved their physical prowess in order to prepare for war and also to depict the aesthetic beauty of the body. In Athenian society, the idyllic body was harmoniously proportioned, alert, and physically fit for both civil and military duties ...
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...progresses, the emphasis on physical education may increase if men are going to be needed to fight. The value of physical education to the ancient Greeks and Romans continues to play a role in American society and America's schools.
Donn, L., & Donn D. (2000, December). Daily life in ancient Greece. Donn Pages. Retrieved September 20, 2001 from the World Wide Web:
Lumpkin, A. (1990). Physical education and sport: A contemporary introduction. (3rd ed.) St. Louis: Mosby, 165-189.
Mechikoff, R., & Estes, S. (1993). A history and philosophy of sport and physical education. Madison, WI: Brown & Benchmark.
The roman gladiator. (2000). Classics Technology Center. AbleMedia. Retrieved October 2, 2001 from the World Wide Web:
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